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Climate Cafes offer up-close engagement with climate task force members

In Room 002 in Upham Hall, you wouldn’t normally expect to find some of Miami University’s biggest sustainability projects and project leaders.

However, throughout this semester, this room is home to intimate conversations about Miami’s carbon neutrality progress thanks to Miami’s sustainability department’s Climate Cafe series.

With two sessions down and three more to go, members of the Climate Action Task Force (CATF) and other presenters have opened up to the Miami community to chat about topics like student engagement, transportation, diversity efforts and more.

The idea for the series came from Denali Selent, the student representative on Miami’s CATF. 

Selent said that while doing research on ways to get the Miami and Oxford community involved, she found her inspiration.

“I think it was an organization of high schoolers who I saw were hosting these cafes, and I was like, ‘That seems like a really cool idea,’” Selent said.

Selent said she wanted to make sure the community was included and in the know when it came to what progress was being made on the Presidents’ Climate Leadership Commitment (PCLC).

“A lot of times, initiatives like this might not get a lot of involvement from the community,” Selent said, “so [this is] just a way to really give people a place to share their ideas, their thoughts, their concerns and that way we can make the most robust plan possible by getting as much input and reflection as we can.”

Adam Sizemore, co-chair of the CATF and director of sustainability, said everyone in the community has a part to play in the efforts toward carbon neutrality.

“In the midst of all of [our] work, we wanted to increase our communication outlets,” Sizemore said, “ … not just as a form of letting the campus know what’s going on and what we’ll be doing, but to also add the collaborative component to it to where it’s not just the task force that's coming up with ideas, that we’re really bringing in the ideas of the campus community.”

David Prytherch, professor of geography, presented at the first Climate Cafe on Sept. 15 about transportation and carbon offsets.

Prytherch said they’re in a great stage in their process to open up conversation with the community.

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“We’ve formed these committees, we’ve got some really great people who are very knowledgeable and we’ve started to frame out some objectives that we think we need to accomplish, but it’s the perfect time to open it up to the public to say, ‘Are these the right objectives?’ or, ‘Are we on base?’”

Prytherch said it’s amazing that a university of Miami’s size is able to provide close engagement opportunities for students and the community. 

“You can sit down your first semester and be involved in a conversation with the campus architect,” Prytherch said. “The next one that’s with Cody Powell, you can sit down in a conversation with somebody who supervises hundreds of employees and millions of dollars in university operations.”

Sizemore said he hopes the talks will strengthen engagement across campus and encourage faculty, students and staff to become part of the overall process.

“The level of engagement at Miami is just phenomenal [from the] students [in] what they want to accomplish and how they’re willing to be a part of that journey with us,” Sizemore said. 

Selent said now that students are back on campus, she’s hoping to see an increase in student engagement, especially with an interest in the Climate Cafe events.

“I’m hoping after all the cafes have occurred we can make them more of a regular thing and keep having them throughout the upcoming years,” Selent said, “just as a place for people to come and share their input, share their ideas, any concerns or criticisms they have of the work the task force is doing … and feel comfortable sharing and hearing updates.”

Sizemore also said they plan to create an online forum for people that can’t come but still want to share their concerns and opinions, and when that is released it can be found on their Instagram page